Pennsylvania Estate Planning, Trust, and Executor and Probate Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Initially, many of our clients come to us with the same questions about: estate planning, being an executor, and about protecting their assets, estate, or inheritance in Pennsylvania. This estate law frequently asked questions page is meant to answer the most common questions we hear from clients each day and to help others build a foundation of knowledge about Pennsylvania estate planning, being an executor  in Pennsyvlania, elder law, trust law, and asset protection.

Do you have a question for us about Pennsylvania estate law that you do not see answered below? Contact us today to talk to an experienced lawyer about your legal needs or email your question to David Frees [email protected]
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  • How Much Money, Real Estate or Assets Can I Gift in 2013?

    If you are interested in gifting stocks, bonds, money, real estate, business interests or other assets to one or more children or grandchildren then you are on the right page.

    In January of 2013 the rules about gifting changed.

    Here is the new information.  However, gifting can be more complicated than you might think.   For example, there are different rules for gift taxes than there are for the nursing home rules under medicaid.  So use the information here as a guide and get good information from an estate and gift tax adviser based on your personal and specific information.

    Gifting in 2013:

    Annual gift tax exclusion - inflation adjusted to $14,000.00 per person. This amount can be given to a child, grandchild and or their spouses.

    Furthermore, if you are married, each spouse can gift this amount to each desired recipient.

    This means that a married couple can together gift $28,000.000 per year.

    If one spouse has greater assets be sure to ask your adviser about split gifts and whether or not you need to file a 709 gift tax return.

    Lifetime Exclusion (unified credit): In addition to the annual gift tax exclusion, each person now also has a $5,250,000.00 lifetime credit which can be used to make gifts to children and grandchildren and/or their spouses.

    You will be required to file a 709 gift tax return when making gifts larger than the $14,000.00 per year annual gift tax amount but you can use your lifetime credit.

    Note:  Gifts of hard to value assets such as real estate or business interests may require not only a gift tax return but an appraisal.

    If you are considering a lifetime gift, you may require the advice of legal counsel.

    However, gifting can radically reduce taxes in certain circumstances and may also need to be coordinated with changes in your wills, trusts,
     and beneficiary designations.  The advice of counsel can therefore be both valuable and can save you and your heirs from later problems that might cost much more to correct.

    David M. Frees III, JD

    610-933-8069

     


     

  • Question Seven: What is the best way to find qualified advisers for my elderly parents’ estate planning?

    Answer: The best way to find advisers such as an estate planning attorney and a financial planner is to ask friends and family that you trust AND who are financially similarly situated. Remember, your parents will need advisers in the state where they reside. If friends or family are unable to recommend an attorney and a financial planner, another source for leads and information is the internet. You should look at websites created by firms that practice in these areas of law. Look for videos, reports, testimonials or other inclinations of client satisfaction and experience. Third party ratings by avvo.com are also useful.

    Please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

     

  • Question Seven (A): How do I find the right lawyer to help me with general and elder law issues?

    Answer:  Again, the best way to find a lawyer who concentrates in elder law is by asking close friends, family, or relatives in the same state where your parents reside.

    If friends or family are unable to recommend an attorney the internet is a good source of information and ratings. You should look at websites created by firms that practice in these areas of law.  

    Look for videos, reports, testimonials or other inclinations of client satisfaction and experience. Third party ratings by avvo.com are also useful.

    Please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

  • Question Six: What type of advisers should I look to for advice regarding my elderly parents estate planning?

    Answer: There are two or three different types of advisers you can look to for advice when trying to help assess, revise, or update your elderly parents’ estate and trust planning. 

    The first type of adviser you can seek is an estate planning attorney with elder or senior law experience.  The estate planning attorney will be able to suggest documents which they feel would best protect your elderly parents in their current financial situation and/or to achieve their own estate planning goals.  An estate planning attorney should be well-versed in the state laws.

    The second type of consultant that you can seek advice from is a financial planner. In some situations, it may be a good idea to have both an estate planning attorney and financial planner working together as a team.

    A financial planner and estate planning attorney will be able to work together to create a plan that is best suited for your parents’ current affairs and to achieve their short term and long term goals (such as asset protection for the family). The financial planner will be able to assess your parents’ current financial status and then suggest long-term plan that would allow them to have money for the remainder of their life. The financial planner should be certified in the state in which your parents currently reside. 

    For clients who have exclusive life or long term disability needs it might be beneficial to involve an insurance adviser in this process.

    Finally, involving your parents' CPA or tax adviser can be important.

    Please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

  • Question Five: Do I really need help with my parents’ elder law and/ or estate planning or can I do it on my own?

    Answer:  Yes, it is possible to do it through Legal Zoom or other on-line services to achieve a "do it yourself result".  But, this area of the law is complicated and you and your elderly parents might need and benefit from the help of an attorney to make sure their elder law estate planning documents are set up properly. Also, because of the complexity of elder law issues, tax laws, and Medicaid’s look back rule which limits gifting it is important to consider the help of an attorney. As you conduct your own research you may realize that estate and elder law planning has a language of its own.  Therefore, you may not fully understand the meaning or importance of each clause in a document. 

    If you do not have your parents’ estate planning documents drafted or executed correctly the court can determine that the documents are not valid. Furthermore, the IRS or the state can also determine that documents such as trusts are not designated to achieve tax nursing home protection goals leaving you or your parents to pay a large sum of money in taxes or to a care facility.  If your parents’ documents are not valid, the court will be able to distribute their assets according to law and not according to their wishes. 

    When trying to find an estate planning attorney, he/she should be licensed to practice within the state in which your elderly parents currently reside and should have elder or senior law experience. Each state has its own estate planning laws. Therefore, it may be highly beneficial for you to work with an attorney who lives and practices in the same state as your elderly parents. Furthermore, you want to find an attorney or law firm which focuses its practiction in these areas.

    Please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

  • Question Four: What are the most important financial topics that should be discussed with your elderly parents?

    Answer: The very first thing you should do, if it is possible and comfortable for them, is to encourage them to discuss their current financial status. You would want to discuss bank accounts, mortgages, loans, credit card accounts, life insurance policies, and ownership documents regarding houses, cars, and other assets.  We often take it for granted that our parents are financially savvy only to discover that they are in difficult financial circumstances. Once you have received this information you will be able to know how you are going to be able to care for your parents long-term. It is a good idea that once you have discussed these topics that you then seek the advice of an attorney and in some cases a financial or life insurance planner. This will ensure that you are able to set up a financial plan that would secure your parents for the remainder of their lives. Talking with an attorney and financial planner is important because many different choices will need to be made as your parents continue to age. 

    Please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

  • Question Three: What are the most important legal documents that your elderly parents should have in place?

    Answer: The five most important legal documents that your parents should have or consider in place are 1) wills, 2) general durable powers of attorney, 3) medical powers of attorney, 4) and living wills. In some cases they might also need or benefit from a 5) revocable or irrevocable trust (including a nursing home asset protection trust).

    A will states how your parents wish that their assets including real property should be distributed upon their death. A will can also include specific gifts that your parents wanted to give to loved ones once they have passed away such as gifts of money, or personal property.

    Your parents should also do a careful review of beneficiary designations under 401(k)’s, 403(b)’s, and life insurance policies to make sure that they do not conflict with the will or other estate planning documents. 

     A general durable power of attorney appoints one or more agents to take care of your parents’ finances once they are no longer capable of doing so.

    A medical power of attorney also appoints one or more agents to make medical decisions on behalf of your parents when they are no longer able to do so. These decisions are typically guided by a living will (see below).

    A living will states your elderly parents’ wishes regarding what type of medical treatment they would want to receive in the event that they become permanently unconscious with no reasonable expectation of the recovery or they are terminal and can no longer make these decisions. 

    Revocable and irrevocable trusts can be used to: 1. Avoid probate, and 2. Shelter or protect assets from a nursing home (this is a very special irrevocable trust).

    Please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

     

  • Question Two: What are the most important issues that you want to “focus on” with your elderly parents?

    Answer: There are three key issues that you want to focus on when discussing elder or senior law issues with elderly parents.  The three areas are 1) financial decision making, 2) medical decision making, and 3) estate planning.

    Financial Decision Making. In this disucssion you should get your parents to consider who would be given the authority to take care of their finances if they were no longer capable of doing so. This would typically include bill paying and investment decisions.

    Medical Decisions Making. Be sure to have your parents consider giving this power to one another and to one or more substitutes so that decisions can be made when they are no longer able to.

     Estate Planning.Your elderly parents should have up to date estate planning documents (including will and in some cases trusts) which clearly state their wishes as to what should happen with their assets upon death.  These should also be coordinated with the beneficiary designations on life insurance, IRA's, and other assets.

    Lastly, proper estate planning documents can minimize taxes and the probate process, which ultimately will save significant amounts of time, money, and frustration.

    Please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

  • Question One: How do you get elderly parents to start talking about their financial and legal affairs

    Answer: This conversation can be either very easy or very difficult depending on your family dynamic. For children from families that have been very open and honest regarding the family’s financial and legal situation it is easy. For others, starting the conversation may be difficult if your parents never openly discussed their financial and legal matters.  But, failing to have this discussion is a recipe for disaster.

     If your family has not openly discussed these issues, one way to try and start the conversation is to start talking about your own concerns planning and and issues. If you have recently updated your own estate or financial planning, you can start off by generally talking about wills, powers of attorney, living wills, and even trusts that you have considered and the advantages of each.

    You can express concerns you have regarding emergencies both medical and financial that may happen as your parents grow older. By starting the conversation out generally it encourages your parents to open up and share with you their wishes or plans for the future. You can also emphasize that by doing your own estate planning you realized that you may not really know or understand their personal concerns and wishes.

    In some situations, parents really do not want their children to have any idea of their financial and legal status, and will not discuss the topic at all. If you find yourself in this situation with your parents, it may be best to hire a counselor or lawyer to try and get the conversation started. Your parents may be more inclined to talk about these issues in the presence of an uninvolved third party.

    However, if the attorney truly represents your parents then there might be significant limitations on information that may be discussed with you. Be sure to discuss these ethical issues with the attorney in advance.

    Please contact David M. Frees, III  at [email protected] or call us at 888-573-7407 regarding your elder law questions.

  • Unpaid Legal Fees and Debts of An Insolvent Estate- What Gets Paid First?

    If Your Estate is in Debt, What Expenses Need to be Paid First?

    If an estate is considered to be insolvent it means that the estate does not have enough assets to pay off debts, claims, and other administrative expenses. When this happens, Pennsylvania law provides an order in which expenses, taxes, and claims that must be paid and which have priority.

    1.    The first expense that needs to be paid off is administration costs.

    2.     Secondly, the family tax exemption needs to be paid.  This exemption includes spouses, children, parents, or any other person living with the decedent during the time of death. 

    3.    The third category that needs to be paid is any funeral or burial expenses. During this time, any medical services; including hospital visits, nursing home costs, or the cost of any medicine, that the descendant was receiving at the time of his death needs to be paid.

    Note: there is a difference in priority of medical expenses depending on when they were incurred. 

    4.    The fourth set of expenses that the executor needs to pay is the cost of the grave marker. 

    5.    The fifth cost that an executor needs to acknowledge is cost regarding the rent for the occupancy of the decedent’s residence. 

    6.    Next, any claims made by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or any subdivisions of the Commonwealth need to be addressed.

    7.    Finally, any other claims that have been brought against the descendant. 

    It is important to know that there is no priority of claims if they are in the same level of priority. And, this list is general. If assets are insufficient to pay the decedent’s bills and expenses you as executor should get legal and accounting advice to avoid personal liability.

    For more information regarding claims against an estate please email or call David M. Frees, III at [email protected] or 888-573-7407.

  • New Medicare Surtax for Trusts and Estates- Will your estate or trust administration be affected?

    How Will Your Estate or Trust Administration Be
    Affected By This New Surtax?

    The Affordable Care Act has been upheld by The Supreme Court.
    This has confirmed that trusts and estates will in fact be subject
    to the additional 3.8% Medicare Surtax in 2013. This particular
    act has been put into place to try and help reform and finance
    healthcare. The 3.8% surtax will be applied to certain types of
    investment income. For example, dividends, taxable interests,
    capital gains, annuities, royalties, and rental income. Therefore,
    if your net investment income exceeds the threshold for the
    highest bracket (which is $12,000) the Medicare surtax will be
    applied. It is important to remember that this Medicare surtax is
    an addition to the federal and state tax that an estate must
    already pay. 

     This raises issues for executors and trustees about whether or
    not they should distribute income to tax payers
    (who might be at a lower rate). This can be a complicated question
    so to avoid personal liability, an executor or trustee should get
    legal advice ( about what the trust permits) AND tax
    advice (about key saving strategies). 

    For more information regarding the tax changes in 2013, 
    please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected] 
    or call 888-573-7407.

     

  • Naming a Beneficiary of Life Insurance and Retirement Policies- Who, What, and Why?

    A “beneficiary” is a person or legal entity you have
    chosen to receive the value of an estate, trust,
    retirement plans, or insurance policies. 

    There are two basic types of beneficiaries.
    The first is a primary beneficiary. A primary beneficiary
    is the first person or entity to receive proceeds from an estate.
    If there is more than one person or entity listed as a primary beneficiary
    the profits will be divided equally or according to the percentages
    you selected. The second type of beneficiary is a contingent beneficiary.
    If there were no living primary beneficiaries, a contingent or secondary
    beneficiary would then receive the remaining assets of an estate.
    If there are no contingent beneficiaries, be sure to ask how the funds 

    will be distributed. In the case of an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement accounts,
    having them default to a will or estate might be desirable. So spend 

    some time thinking about your beneficiaries and consider
    the following information.

     Before designating a beneficiary it is important to know who can be named.
    Some examples of who can be designated as a beneficiary are,
    spouses, parents, children (who are over the age of 18), trusts,
    estates, friends, charities, organizations, churches, or even universities.
    When you do name a beneficiary be specific as possible to try and
    eliminate any question regarding the identity of a particular beneficiary. 

     Once beneficiaries of your insurance and other accounts have
    been designated, it is important to keep the designations up to date.
    If there are changes to estate planning documents, retirement plans,
    or insurance policies beneficiary changes might also be necessary.
    This typically happens when major life changes happen such as marriage,
    divorce, death, retirement, major financial changes, and/or changes
    in estate tax or laws.

    It is therefore important to review these designations
    AND how they work with your will, trust, and estate planning
    documents on a regular basis.

    For more information regarding designating and updating beneficiaries,
    and estate planning. Please contact David M. Frees, III at
    [email protected] or call 888-573-7407.

     

  • How do you get elderly parents to start talking about their financial and legal affairs?

    Answer: This conversation can be either very easy very or difficult depending on your family dynamic. Children from families that have been very open and honest regarding the family’s financial and legal situation it is easy. For others, starting the conversation will be difficult if your parents never openly discussed their financial and legal matters. 

    If your family has not openly discussed these issues, one way to try and start the conversation is to start talking about your own
    concerns and issues. If you have recently updated your own estate or financial planning, you can start off by generally talking about wills, powers of attorney, living wills, and even trusts that you have considered and the advantages of each. You can express concerns you have regarding emergencies both medically and financially that may happen as your parents grow older. By starting the conversation out generally it encourages your parents to open up and share with you their wishes or plans for the future. You can also emphasize that by doing your own estate planning you realized that you may not really know or understand their concerns and wishes.

    In some situations, parents really do not want their children to have any idea of their financial and legal status, and will not discuss the topic at all. If you find yourself in this situation with your parents, it may be best to hire a counselor or lawyer to try and get the 
    conversation started. Your parents may be more inclined to talk about these issues in the presence of an uninvolved third party.

    However, if the attorney truly represents your parents then there might be significant limitations on information that may pertain to you.  

    Be sure to discuss these ethical issues with the attorney in advance.

  • What Court is in Charge of an Adult Guardianship?

    How to Determine Jurisdiction for An Incapacitated Person?

    Typical Scenario: Bridget lives in Maryland. Grandparents of Bridget,
    Joe and Josephine live in Pennsylvania during the summer months.
    however, during the winter months, Joe and Josephine migrate to Florida
    to enjoy the warm weather. Josephine has been diagnosed with early stages
    of Alzheimer’s leaving Joe to be the primary care taker. He suddenly passes
    away while the couple is living in Florida for the winter months. Bridget decides
    to go to Florida to spend time with her grandmother. She realizes that Josephine
    is no longer able to care for herself and would like to file for guardianship.
    Where does she file and what court has jurisdiction? 

    Bridget is now unclear as to where the guardianship proceedings should
    take place because she does not know which state has proper jurisdiction.
    Bridget’s choices of possible jurisdiction are Pennsylvania
    (her grandparents’ primary home), Maryland (her primary home), or
    Florida(her grandparents’ vacation home) . To try and solve issue of the
    jurisdiction over adult guardianship, many states have adopted the
    Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act.

    This Act specifically states which court has proper jurisdiction in order
    to appoint a guardian for an incapacitated person. Primary jurisdiction is
    determined by the “home state” of the individual. This means the state in
    which the individual lived for at least the past six months. If this could not
    be determined, the next court that would have appropriate jurisdiction is
    decided by where the incapacitated person had “significant connection”. 

    Significant connection to a state would be considered as having family members,
    owning assets in that state, maintaining social relationships, or having a
    voting address in a particular state.  Lastly, if the incapacitated person 

    did not have a home state or did not have a significant connection,
    another court could claim jurisdiction.

    As a result, in our situation above, Pennsylvania would have proper jurisdiction.
    The reason that Pennsylvania has primary jurisdiction is because
    Pennsylvania is considered JoAnn’s home state.


     For more information regarding, adult or child guardianship
    please contact David M. Frees, III at [email protected]
    or call 888-573-7407

  • What Should I Know About a Last Will and Testament?

    What Is A Last Will and Testament?

    Executing a last will and testament is not something
    that should be put off or avoided even though it can be a
    hard topic to discuss. If a person dies without a will the
    state will decide what will happen to their assets. When a
    person dies without a will it is known as intestate succession.
    Typically, an individual’s spouse or children would receive the
    assets first. If an individual does not have a spouse or any children,
    the closest living relatives would then receive the assets.
    In order to avoid intestate succession, a last will and testament
    should be created stating what should happen to the
    assets in the event of a death.

    Some individuals have chosen created a holographic will as
    their last will and testament. A holographic will is a handwritten will.
    Holographic wills are not accepted in every state because it is
    hard to prove its authenticity. Therefore, holographic wills are generally
    not recommended. As a result, having a will and estate attorney
    draft a last will and testament along with other important estate

    planning documents is the best way to secure an individual’s assets. 

    A last will and testament specifies what should happen with an
    estate once an individual passes away. This document states who
    should look after any children that have survived the decedent,
    how properties should be divided, who should be in charge of
    administrating the estate, and any specific gifts that the decedent
    wanted to give to loved ones.

    In order to properly execute a last will and testament,
    you must be of sound mind. This means that the individual
    must have a clear understanding of the documents in which
    they are signing. The individual must be acting on their own free
    will without undue influence from others.  Lastly, the will must
    be signed, witnessed, and notarized in accordance with state laws.

    Once a last will and testament is executed, the will
    should be stored in a safe location. There are many different locations
    in which an individual can choose to store their original will.
    One option is to keep the last will and testament at the law firm
    where it was originally drafted. The law firm would store the will in a
    fire-proof safe where it could not be destroyed or damaged.
    Another option is to keep the last will and testament in a
    safe deposit box. An individual can also decide to store their
    will inside their own home. A last will and testament should be
    stored in a fire-proof or water-proof safe within a residence.
    This way if there is a flood or fire the estate planning
    documents will not be destroyed or damaged. 

     A last will and testament along with other estate planning
    documents should be periodically reviewed by an estate planning
    attorney. It is important to update or change estate planning
    documents when major events happen within a lifetime.
    For example, marriage, divorce, death, birth of children or
    grandchildren, major financial changes, or major law changes.
    It is recommended that estate planning documents be updated
    every five to seven years. Once changes have been made
    and executed, the previous will is revoked and is no longer valid.

    Please click the links, for more information regardinging living wills 
    and revocable living trusts.

    For more information regarding last wills and testament along
    with other estate planning documents
    please contact David M. Frees, III at 888-573-7407.

  • What Should I Know About A Living Will?

    What Is A Living Will?

        After creating a last will and testament, another important
    legal document that should be discussed is a living will.
    As technology continues to advance, the ability to keep people
    alive by using various life support systems is also increasing.
    Every individual has the right to decide whether or not they want
    to be kept alive by life support. A living will explains the wishes
    of an individual in the event they become incapacitated and there
    is no reasonable chance of recovery of normal brain function.
    Whether it is your wish to remain on life support or to abstain
    from life support, it is important to put your wishes into writing.

        The living will outlines specific medical instructions that should
    be followed once an individual reaches a state where they are no
    longer able to convey or communicate their wishes to others.
    For instance, a living will would come into effect if an individual
    falls into an irreversible coma or a vegetative state. Additionally,
    a living will specifies what types of treatment an individual wishes
    to receive once they become incapacitated with no chance of
    recovery. For example, the living will will request or decline
    cardiac resuscitation, mechanical respiration, artificial nutrition,
    blood products, and kidney dialysis, in such circumstances.  

    A power of attorney or agent can also be listed in a living will
    or in a separate medical power of attorney. The agent that is
    chosen should be trusted to make important medical decisions
    when you no longer can. This agent will be able to give consent or
    withhold consent regarding various types of care that were not listed
    in the living will or in circumstances where the decisions your made
    are unclear. As a result, it is important to clearly convey what is to
    happen in the event you become incapacitated with no chance of recovery.
    Lastly, the agent would use their best judgment as to when they
    feel it is time to release the living will to the doctors. 

    Once a living will is filled out, it is important to have it witnessed by at
    least two different witnesses. In many states the living will must
    also be notarized. These witnesses need to be of sound
    mind and body. Being of sound mind and body is important in the
    event the witnesses have to testify in court. Furthermore, the
    witnesses should be independent and unrelated parties and should
    not have any personal benefit from the document. 

    Lastly, a living will can be changed or revoked at any time.
    It is important to review or update a living will when other
    estate planning documents are being updated. A living will
    should be reviewed and updated every five to seven years.

    Please click the links, for more information regarding 
    last wills and testaments or revocable living trusts.

    For more information regarding living wills and
    other estate planning documents please contact
    David M. Frees, III at 888-573-7407.

     

  • What Should I Know About A Revocable Living Trust

    What Is A Revocable Living Trust?

    A living trust is a trust that is created while an
    individual (known as a “settlor” or “grantor”) is still living.
    This declaration or agreement of trust includes names of
    trustees, beneficiaries, describes investment assets and
    properties held by the trust, and provides the terms of the
    trust and how money is to be invested and distributed.
    This trust arrangement allows one or more people to manage
    or control property for someone else’s benefit. A living trust allows
    an individual, while they are still living, to transfer the title of
    their property to the trustee of the living trust. Once the transfer is
    complete the trustee would then be the owner of the property.
    So, as long as the trust is a revocable trust, the grantor or settlor
    can be the trustee of his or her own trust.

    Many times individuals do not understand the difference between
    a last will and testament and a living trust since they both deal with
    the distribution of property and assets. The first difference is that a
    living trust can provide more privacy then a last will and testament.
    The reason for this is that a living trust does not have to be submitted
    to probate court(unless challenged). Therefore, the details of an estate
    are more private. A last will and testament has to be submitted to
    probate court, making it a public document. Another major difference is
    that a living trust limits the involvement of probate court when distributing
    property. However, many states are regulating such distributions
    more and more.

    There are many other benefits to creating a living trust. By creating a
    living trust all assets including real estate can be managed and controlled
    as a single unit. As a result, this allows for efficient distribution of assets
    and property upon death. A living trust permits beneficiaries avoid the
    probate process. The probate process in some states can be extremely
    expensive and last for more than two years. Moreover, the probate process
    can be more costly. Therefore, creating a living trust can be very cost
    efficient when trying to avoid the probate process. In some states, assets
    in a trust cannot be reached by a state’s estate recovery program where
    assets passing under a will can be claimed. 

    In order to take full advantage of the benefits of a living trust property
    must be transferred into the trust prior to death. The individual who transfers
    the property is known as the “grantor”. The living trust that is created would
    then be considered the “grantee”. It is important to transfer the most valuable
    property into the living trust. This may include, a primary residence, business
    real estate, money market accounts, stocks and bonds, valuable collections,
    and expensive jewelry.

    As previously stated, the creator of the living trust will name the beneficiaries.
    There are three different types of living trusts beneficiaries. The three
    types are specific beneficiaries, primary beneficiaries, and
    alternate beneficiaries. Specific beneficiaries are the individuals who
    receive specific property (such as a watch, clock, or piece of real estate).
    Primary beneficiaries are individuals that receive any property that is not
    explicitly distributed to the specific beneficiaries. Lastly, alternate
    beneficiaries are individuals who receive any property in the event that
    the primary beneficiaries died before the creator of the living trust.
    Overall, the creator of the living trust is able to choose any person
    they wish as beneficiaries of their living trust.

    Lastly, a revocable living trust should be reviewed or altered if your 
    financial or life situation dramatically changes. This could mean
    purchasing a business or a new piece of real estate. In accordance
    with all other estate planning documents, a living trust should be
    reviewed and updated every five to seven years.

    Please click the links, for more information regarding last wills
    and testament
    and living trusts.

    For more information regarding revocable living trusts and
    other estate planning documents please
    contact David M. Frees, III at 888-573-7407.

  • What Are The Safest and Smartest Places to Store Your Will?

    How To Choose A Safe Place To Store Your Will.

    Once the process of executing your will is completed,
    the final and most important decision you have to make
    is where to store you will. There is only one original will,
    therefore it is very important to store it in a safe location
    where an executor can easily locate the will for
    probate and/or the distribution of your estate. 

    1.    Your Attorney’s Office 
    The first place a will can be stored is at yourattorney’s office.
    This could be a good option if 
    you are planning on staying with
    the attorney for a 
    longperiod of time. The executor of your will
    would need to
    be informed of the name and location of the
    attorney’s office.
    The attorney’s office would just need proof of
    death before
    releasing the original will. The decision to store an
    original will at an attorney’s office is safe and easy.

    2.    In Your Safe Deposit Box
    Another safe, if not the safest place to keep your original will is
    in your safe deposit box. Some people may argue that even
    though a safe deposit box is the safest place for your will it is
    not the easiest place to store it. In Pennsylvania, the executor
    is now required to give notice of the inventory by documenting
    the contents found within the safe deposit box. Then the executor
    needs to confirm that the state has been notified of the contents
    within the safe deposit box. There is a process involved for the
    executor of a will in order to obtain the will, but it is only for your

    protection making it a very safe place to store a will. And, the will
    is made quickly available to your executor. In any case,

    make sure that your executor knows where it is stored and
    the location of the safe deposit box or the safe deposit box key.

    3.    In a Fire-proof Safe in Your Home
     One of the most common places to store a will is in your own home.
    This option appeals to many people because they want to be
    able to store all of their important documents together
    in one place. However, simply storing a will in a regular

    filing cabinet or drawer is not a safe or smart option because
    of natural disasters such as flooding or fires.  Therefore,
    keeping a will in a fire-proof or water-proof safe is the best option
    if you are considering keeping a will in your residence. 

    Overall, there are many different places that a will can be safely stored.
    A will should be stored in a safe location where it cannot be effortlessly
    obtained by the wrong people or easily destroyed. Furthermore,

    it is important that the executor knows where and how to obtain
    the document in the event of your death.

    For more information regarding Estate Planning Documents please
    contact Unruh, Turner, Burke & Frees at 888-573-7407.

  • What Happens to Your Electronic Assets When You Die?

    How To Gain Access Of A Decedents Online Accounts
    and Why That is More Important Than Ever Before.

    The idea of going paperless continues to spread across
    the United States. More and more individuals have email accounts,
    use social media, and pay various bills all online. However, lawmakers
    have not caught up to the trend of “going green” or being digitally social,
    which leaves surviving loved ones struggling to gain access to these 
    various online accounts. Many estate policies of online accounts often 
    grant loved ones access to the decedent’s online accounts,
    but privacy laws prevent this from actually happening. 

        To try and combat this problem some individuals have
    started to keep a log of their online usernames and passwords.
    There are also various services such as mSecure, SecureSafe,
    and LegacyLocker that individuals are using to keep all their online
    information in one secure location. Therefore, upon the death of the individual,
    a family member would be able to access the usernames and passwords
    for their online accounts without any practical trouble. Overall,
    keeping a log or using a password safety service seems to be the most
    practical way to avoid being locked out of a decedent’s online accounts. 

    And some state laws specifically authorize executors or trustees
    to have such access. However, if a log or memo is not left behind,
    family members of a decedent have no choice but to follow online
    guidelines set forth by each individual company or state law.
    These guidelines can be stringent making it difficult to follow and gain
    access to the online accounts. For instance, many companies require
    a court order in order to gain access and other pertinent information
    regarding the account.

     Listed below is information regarding how major online 
    companies control the access of decedent’s accounts:
    1.    Google:
    a.    Will not disclose any passwords on a decedent’s account.
    b.    Will not deactivate a decedent’s account without having a court order.
    c.    It will however, provide information to loved ones if Google
    receives proof of death, i.e. death certificate, or court order.

    2.    Facebook:
    a.    Facebook will not disclose any passwords.
    b.    Will deactivate and remove an account upon a family’s request.
    c.    If notified, Facebook will “memorialize” an account.  This means
    that friends will still be able to post to a Facebook page
    but no one will ever be allowed to log into the account.
    d.    Requests a court order to release any contents of the
    account or further information. 

    3.    Yahoo:
    a.    Will not disclose any passwords.
    b.    Upon receiving a death certificate, Yahoo will deactivate
    an account.

    4.    Microsoft:
    a.    Will not disclose any passwords or transfer ownership.
    b.    Will terminate account if requested by loved ones.
    c.    Allows family members who have been permitted
    by the decedent to use their password to gain access. 
    d.    Will give contents of account, if Microsoft receives
    appropriate documentation.

    5.    Twitter:
    a.    Will not disclose any passwords.
    b.    Will only release account information if
    accompanied by a court order.
    c.    If Twitter receives a death certificate,
    they will deactivate the account.

    6.    Tumblr:
    a.    If immediate family requests the account be removed, it will do so.
    b.    Will only disclose contents of account if they receive a court order.
    c.    Will not disclose any passwords. 

    7.    LinkedIn:
    a.    Will not transfer or disclose any passwords.
    b.    If email address is known, LinkedIn will hide 
    account information from the public. 
    c. Upon specific request, LinkedIn will delete account.

    Of course, there are numerous other issues including 
    digital access to bank accounts, who owns club memberships,
    airline credit card miles and point accounts, and other related matters.

    Be sure to contact your estate planning lawyer
    to discuss these tricky issues before you complete
    you next will, trust, or memo regarding digital access.
    For more information,
    please contact David M. Frees, III at 888-573-7407.

  • How Can I Avoid Family Feuds when Family Members Have Joint Accounts with One Another

    Can Joint Accounts Cause Family Disputes and How Can They be Avoided?

    The use of joint accounts which are not coordinated with your will, trust, or
    estate planning can often cause family misunderstandings and disputes.
    To understand more about the question of joint accounts click here. 

    David M. Frees, III, JD
    610-933-8069
    [email protected]